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In 1895, an Italian seamstress in New York was accused of killing the man who had raped her, promised to marry her, and was about to abandon her. Following a sensational trial conducted in a language she could not understand, Maria Barbella, at the age of twenty-two, became the first woman sentenced to die in the newly invented electric chair. Idanna Pucci tells this story with immediacy, passion and authority that no other author could have mustered, since Pucci is the great-granddaughter of Cora Slocomb, the American-born Italian aristocrat whose ingenious advocacy saved Maria's life. The result is not only a crime story with all the fury and pathos of classic opera, but a perceptive study of an earlier generation's attitudes toward immigrants, capital punishment, and a woman's right to reject the role of victim.